Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our Idiot Brother - 2011

"Our Idiot Brother" - 2011
Dir. by Jesse Peretz - 1 hr. 30 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

The title of this movie sounds like one of those playful jabs you'd lob at a family member or close friend, but for the bulk of "Our Idiot Brother," the main character's sisters act like they mean every syllable of it.  It's kind of troublesome, but would probably be nearly unbearable if not for the easy-going, good-natured charm of Paul Rudd.

Rudd plays Ned, a guy who bears an uncanny resemblance to early-90s Eddie Vedder, who's so trusting that he ends up getting busted for selling marijuana to an in-uniform police officer, and gets sent to jail for it.  When he gets out early, he discovers that his organic-farming girlfriend has moved on to another man, and didn't bother to tell Ned about it.  She's supremely passive-aggressive, to the point where she won't let him stay there (Ned also worked on the farm, so he's out a girlfriend, a job, and a place to stay, all without notice), and refuses to give Ned their dog, Willie Nelson.  Ned successively strikes out with all three of his sisters, unintentionally sabotaging their relationships along the way with his naive honesty.

There are some very funny scenes along the course of this movie, particularly the ones involving Ned and his ex-girlfriend.  They have super-passive-aggressive arguments steeped in hippie talk, which ends up being hilarious.  But the bulk of the movie is dedicated to Ned's generous geniality pitted against his family's individual determination to lie and act behind other people's backs.  It's clear that the audience is supposed to chuckle at Ned's overly generous view of humanity, and possibly identify with his sisters' attempts at alpha-femaling being undone by Ned.  The only actress who manages to strike the right note here is Zooey Deschanel, which is probably because her character bears the closest resemblance, personality-wise.  Elizabeth Banks' character is too bossy and focused to accommodate much of anything, and Emily Mortimer's is too haggard and worn down by her children and ass of a husband (Steve Coogan) to pay attention to much of anything.

It takes Ned returning to jail (under similar dubious circumstances) for the witches three to realize what's good about Ned, and they rush to his defense.  It's less of a triumphant moment than a "what took so long?" moment.  I'm not sure exactly what the resistance is to a person just wanting to live happily (and avoid the career-based pitfalls of his sisters), but it doesn't seem like the sort of thing that should take two acts to arrive at.  On the other hand, most of the joy of this film is in watching Paul Rudd be easy-going and charming.  I can't stress that enough: while it's frustrating watching Ned's family reject him one after another, I didn't feel at all cheated because it was that much fun just watching Ned be Ned.

2.5 / 5 - Theatre

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